Welcome to the Dream Shop issue. Over the past few years, the June issues of Tire Review have addressed the physical design of tire stores. From interior design students providing their innovative designs in our 2015 “Rethinking the Tire Store” challenge, to our “Shop of the Future” in 2016, we’ve covered what might be possible in a forward-looking view of a retail tire operation.
While our students and designers were talking about what could be done, some shop owners across the country are actually doing it – building or renovating their tire businesses based on a combination of thoughtful design and vision inspired by experience. Capturing their stories and advice is what the cover story for this issue is all about.
I’m on the road quite a bit covering the industry and, with this issue in mind, one of the questions I often ask people I meet is this: “Who do you know who has a ‘dream shop’ or a location designed around their vision of what a tire store should be?” After several months of gathering suggestions, I’ve recently had the pleasure of interviewing many of the shop owners and managers of the recommended locations to uncover their stories and to discover what it took to bring their vision to life.
While you might be thinking that all it takes to build a dream shop is a really big pile of money, that’s not completely true. The real growth starts with a “practical dreamer” – an owner with a unique mindset who’s ready for more.
So, what exactly is a practical dreamer? In my view, it’s someone who harnesses their creativity and imagination toward productive and realistic goals, projects or actions – with the confidence and moxie to execute on their vision. It goes beyond the cliché of “thinking outside the box” and takes it into uncharted territory or a new direction, with good sense and practicality acting as guardrails to help keep things on track, getting them to the destination faster. In the end, the difference between “dreamer” and “practical dreamer” is action – the ability to do the work to bring that dream to life.
Of course, almost every business owner considers themselves a practical dreamer at the start of their entrepreneurial journey. They’re on fire, fueled by their dreams of success and the idea of making a difference while finally living life on their terms. (Sound familiar?) But little by little, time and experience wears people down. Or they settle into the comfort and safety of routine. That same level of passion and energy may get harder to muster as the years go by. Sure, they still have dreams – but those dreams no longer seem “practical” based on current conditions. They’re stuck.
As a former business owner, I’ve “been there, done that” – but fortunately my business’ rut soon became a springboard for change, much like the Dream Shop owners I spoke with. Changing things up in your business – adding a new location or mix of service offerings – can breathe new life into your operation. Specialty retailers are supposed to update the look and feel of their stores every two years to keep things fresh. As a tire retailer, when was the last time you did that?
Now, I said earlier that it starts with being a practical dreamer, but there’s much more to it than that. In fact, the tire dealers I talked to all had distinct qualities in common, and all of those qualities were fueled by a positive, can-do mindset.
While each quality is powerful on its own, the combination helps explain what makes a Dream Shop creator unique by comparison. Let’s take a look at each and why it matters:
Obsession – When asked how they could justify the investment of turning their already solid operation into a Dream Shop, the universal response was: “The Customer.” While almost every tire business tries to create a decent customer experience, for Dream Shop creators it’s closer to an obsession. (Details are in the article on page 38.) From rural shops to business park locations, each owner was passionate about investing in new ways to delight their customers and stand out within their communities.
Moxie – One of my favorite expressions is “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” Each one of the visionary tire dealers featured in this issue had a sense of fearlessness. It’s not that they weren’t nervous that their investment in a dream shop concept wouldn’t pan out. (Trust me, they were.) It was more about having the moxie to take a calculated risk and push through to a positive outcome no matter what. While fear of failure can hobble the dreams of so many business owners (and once-practical dreamers), these people felt the fear and did it anyway.
Makers – On the office wall of Bay Area Tire and Service hangs this quote: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Owners of dream-shop locations are not content with what’s here and now – they’re focused on what’s next. Instead of reacting to changes in the retail tire landscape, they are making the changes today in anticipation of what their customers will be expecting tomorrow.
Crack the office door of most dream shops and you’ll find an innovative owner whose feet are planted firmly in the now while thinking about what’s next as they set their sites on growth. Even if you’re not there yet, reconnecting with the practical dreamer within each of us is a good place to start.
Many thanks to all of you who provided me with suggestions for dream shops to check out, and to the tire dealers for sharing their stories in this issue.
Let me know what you think at [email protected] I welcome your feedback.